Who’s Who in Iranian Politics
Mohammad Reza Aref
Born on Dec. 17, 1951, in the city of Yazd, Mohammad Reza Aref is a politician and university professor. He was the First Vice President during Seyyed Mohammad Khatami's second term as president, from 2001 to 2005. He is currently a member of the High Council of Cultural Revolution, a member of the Expediency Council (since March 16, 2002), a professor in the Electrical Engineering Department of Sharif University of Technology, and the CEO of the Baran Foundation.
He holds a BSc degree from Tehran University, and an MSc degree in electrical engineering and a PhD in statistics from Stanford University in the US. He is a permanent member of the Academy of Science. Between 1981 and 1994, he was a professor in the Electrical Engineering Department and Computer Science Department of Isfahan University.
In his PhD thesis, entitled Information Flow in Relay Networks, he analyzed deterministic relay networks which have become known as Aref networks.
During his political career, Aref has held important positions in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Between 1994 and 1997, he was the President of Tehran University and from 1997 to 2000, he was the Minister of Post, Telegraph and Telephone (now called the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology). Following the merger of the Program and Budget Organization and Administration Affairs and Employment Organization, he became the first president of the Management and Planning Organization of the country from 2000 to 2001.
During the Islamic Consultative Assembly's (Parliament) 8th Term elections, Mohammad Reza Aref withdrew his candidacy in protest to the disqualification of the reformists. He was considered the number one candidate in the election list of the reformist coalition.
In 2005, when Ahmadinejad won in the presidential election, there was much talk of Aref's candidacy in the election, about which he has said: “The most important reason why I did not become a candidate in 2005 was that I had heard from close friends of Mr. Hashemi that he would be a candidate. At that time, I was the First Vice President of Mr. Khatami's cabinet and had numerous advantages. There would have been no problem even if I had used these advantages. I could have campaigned in the provinces and everybody would have welcomed me."
Khatami's First Vice President, who states that in 2005 he withdrew his candidacy in favor of Hashemi and in 2009 for Khatami, has complained about the lack of consensus among the reformists in these two elections and considers it the reason behind today's situation of the reformists. On this basis, he reiterates the necessity for agreement on one reformist candidate for the 2013 presidential election, and although he expects to abide by this rule, he has set a condition for withdrawing his candidacy only if he considers the proposed candidate more competent than himself.
Following Khatami's withdrawal as presidential candidate in 2009 in favor of Mir Hossein Mousavi, Dr. Aref did not participate in political gatherings and, following the incidents after the 2009 election, he preferred to remain silent and continued his membership in the High Council of Cultural Revolution and the Expediency Council. This silence and non-endorsement of Mousavi exempted this bureaucrat from the city of Yazd from being considered in the circle of people known as the "conspirators", and he was not even considered among those called by the Principalists as "insightless", and waited for the 2013 election so as to announce his candidacy.
In an interview, Aref has said, “The claim of "fraud” in elections must be proven. I do not approve the issue of "fraud” and believe that a faithful Muslim official must certainly act based on the law and I believe that since the votes of the people are trusted with us, their trust must not be betrayed and the officials are responsible.”
In response to a question asking, “if you were one of the candidates defeated in the 2009 election, what would you have done?” he said, “I would have legally pursued the matter.”
In criticizing the actions of the Principalists in opposing Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the last year of his presidency, he believes that, “the Principalists must accept that they are responsible and share the good and bad deeds of this government and people do not accept that they refuse to bear the responsibility. They should honestly say that they have made mistakes and try to correct them, not to create a monster called the "deviating movement" overnight, and put the responsibility for all the wrongdoings on them! What is this “deviating movement"?” In response to a question with regard to the reformists' action in holding sit-ins in the parliament and their collective resignations, Aref states: “They should certainly respond to this matter. At that time, I declared my opposition to this measure and told my reformist friends that we are now in power and hold the two executive and legislative bodies. Under such conditions, these measures are not acceptable. We are exactly paying the price for those measures that I had disapproved of!"
Two contradictory statements by Aref have been published in the past few months. The first was about coordination with Khatami and the fact that he would only enter the election if approved by Mr. Khatami, and the second that he would in any case be a candidate for the 11th Iranian presidential elections and that he would be satisfied with even 2 million votes. This second quote was actually made after pre-conditions for the elections were announced, and when Mr. Khatami emphasized that there is no need for the reformists to have a candidate in an election where they are not welcome. Regarding this issue and that of ties between Aref and the reformists, Mohammad Reza Khatami, the former Secretary General of the Participation Front, has also said that “his candidacy has no relation to the reformists.”
There are some pages on Facebook for Dr. Aref and on the issue of the elections. The first is “The Coalition of Reformists for the Presidential Election” which was formerly entitled “The Campaign to Support Dr. Mohammad Reza Aref for President” and which later changed its name (probably due to statements made in criticism of Aref’s candidacy). However, this page acts in a rather avant-garde way with regard to Aref’s political positions, including pictures of Mousavi and Karroubi, and an interesting report on the comparison between the Khatami government’s economic record and that of Ahmadinejad’s. In spite of all this, instead of assessing Mohammad Reza Aref’s abilities, this page has tried to use Aref and Khatami’s work relationship as a tool for publicity. The page is also carrying out a survey where they have asked people “If Khatami does not become a candidate, who would you consider as a suitable replacement?” We can find the likes of Abdullah Noori, Seyyed Hassan Khomeini, and Mohammad Reza Khatami on the list of choices. This is while only the names of Hassan Khomeini and Mohammad Reza Aref were previously on this list. On this page, the main emphasis is on the fact that Ghalibaf is incapable of being president, whether by modeling him as another Ahmadinejad – both men were mayors of Tehran – or by publishing a report on a complaint Ahmadinejad’s team made against Ghalibaf because of an audio file which was published in 2008, in which insulting remarks were made against Ahmadinejad.